The Benefits of Slow Cooker Cooking
Slow-Cook Once for Multiple Healthy Meals
My slow cooker meals always come out so dry. What can I do to keep it moist (and I don't mean just wet)? I would love to use my cooker more often, but I can't figure out how to make things right. Please help!
Things that could make slow cooker meals too dry:
If you're doing all these things, maybe there's something wrong with your slow cooker, maybe it's cooking too hot. If it's new, take it back and exchange it for another.
You must pay attention to the size of the slow cooker versus the size suggested in the recipe! If you put a small amount in a very large slow cooker, it cooks much faster. Hence, you'll have dried out food. I have found that pot roast will turn dry as dust even if it is swimming in gravy if it is overcooked. Cooking on high all day is not the way to go. Check your manual for your slow cooker to see how full it should be. Follow recipes exactly as to the length of time and what setting. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food. If it is not hot enough at the end of the cooking time, turn on high and cook for 30 minutes and check again. It will probably be done just right.
The number one thing that I found that helps my meals stay moist is to brown the meat before placing it in the slow cooker. This helps seal in the juices. Don't lift the lid during cooking unless absolutely necessary. It increases the cooking time and lets precious moisture escape. Also, make sure you are putting enough liquid in the cooker to keep things moist. It doesn't need to be a lot, but a little will help your meal steam a bit, which prevents moisture loss. Also, make sure your recipes require enough cooking that they won't be completely over done when you get home. For example, a recipe that calls for eight hours cooking is probably fine on low for up to ten hours, but a recipe that only called for five to six hours of cooking could be overdone if you don't get home until ten hours later.
Using a slow cooker in the hot summer months saves energy and doesn't heat up your house, making your air conditioner work harder. When you are cooking with a slow cooker, remember that cheaper cuts of meat do much better (such as chuck roasts or chuck steaks). Very lean cuts of beef come out very dry. Chicken legs or thighs generally will give a more moist end result than chicken breast. If you do use chicken breast, use the whole breasts, not the boneless skinless breasts, since whole breasts will remain moister. Remove the bones and skin after cooking.
Also, remember to use enough liquid to cook over a long period of time. Liquids like chicken or beef broth or cream soups diluted with water make very good gravies in the slow cooker.
Go to the library and check out a couple of cookbooks on slow cooker cooking. There are also numerous free recipe sites on the Internet where you can get good slow cooker recipes.
I usually have one of my four slow cookers going most days of the week. I have not experienced the problem you are speaking about because I use recipes from a series of books written by Phyllis Pellman Good. The titles are FIX-IT and FORGET-IT LIGHTLY : Healthy, Low-Fat Recipes for Your Slow Cooker and Fix-It and Forget-It Diabetic Cookbook: Slow-Cooker Favorites to Include Everyone!.
Dryness can be a problem when you are trying to convert regular recipes. By reading the amounts of ingredients and the amounts of liquid that are in the recipes in the above recipe books, you may be able to successfully adjust your own recipes. There are many online sites for slow cooker recipes as well. Check there to see what they are giving as "liquid" amounts in their recipes. I can recommend the recipes from the above mentioned books as I have tried most of them satisfactorily.
I was given a few tips that seem to help with dry meat:
I've tried all of these suggestions and they each work well depending on the recipe. And my slow cooker meals are getting better each time.
Valeria in Athens, GA
There is a great group on Yahoo Groups called Slowcooker. You can join and receive email messages as they post, get a daily digest of the messages, or just check the website at your leisure. These are real people using their slow cookers. I've seen a lot of great recipes.
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